Push To Make Serving Sizes More Realistic

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – Sometimes it feels like an advanced math degree is needed to figure out the nutritional information on food labels.

There is now a push to make them easier to understand, and more realistic in terms of what a serving size really represents today.

Steve Mulligan, the father of a young child, gets frustrated when he reads food labels, and now has pretty much given up trying to decipher them. “We don’t normally use the serving size as a guideline just because it tends to be kind of confusing,” he explained.

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports

A growing number of health experts and advocacy groups agree, and are calling for the Food and Drug Administration to revise serving size regulations.

The current standards are based on eating behavior surveys that are almost 30 years old.

“People are eating much larger portions than they used to,” said nutritionist Elisa Zied. “These numbers really don’t reflect what people are typically consuming in one sitting.”

This leads to many people believing they are consuming fewer calories, fat, and sodium than they are truly are. This can happen with some of our favorite foods unfortunately.

A typical serving of ice cream is half a cup, for example. Most people, however, scoop at least twice that amount, racking up day’s worth of saturated fat in the process.

Former FDA official Peter Pitts would like to see food labels evolve, but says it is important to realize portion sizes are just one piece of the nutritional puzzle.

“The really crucial thing is not to redefine what a serving is; it’s just a number,” said Pitts. “Rather we should help to educate people as to what the appropriate amount of food they should intake, and what kind, and when.”

Any change with FDA regulations is time consuming. Not only does any new science need to be reviewed, but some type of consensus has to be reached among the governments, the food manufacturers, and consumer advocates.

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